The Future of Life

The Future of Life

FLI catalyzes and supports research and initiatives for safeguarding life and developing optimistic visions of the future, including positive ways for humanity to steer its own course considering new technologies and challenges. Among our objectives is to inspire discussion and a sharing of ideas. As such, we interview researchers and thought leaders who we believe will help spur discussion within our community. The interviews do not necessarily represent FLI’s opinions or views.... Show More

Episodes

July 1, 2020 97 min
It's well-established in the AI alignment literature what happens when an AI system learns or is given an objective that doesn't fully capture what we want.  Human preferences and values are inevitably left out and the AI, likely being a powerful optimizer, will take advantage of the dimensions of freedom afforded by the misspecified objective and set them to extreme values. This may allow for better optimization on the goa...
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June 26, 2020 43 min
This is a mix by Barker, Berlin-based music producer, that was featured on our last podcast: Sam Barker and David Pearce on Art, Paradise Engineering, and Existential Hope (With Guest Mix). We hope that you'll find inspiration and well-being in this soundscape. You can find the page for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2020/06/24/sam-barker-and-david-pearce-on-art-paradise-engineering-and-existential-hope-featuring...
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Sam Barker, a Berlin-based music producer, and David Pearce, philosopher and author of The Hedonistic Imperative, join us on a special episode of the FLI Podcast to spread some existential hope. Sam is the author of euphoric sound landscapes inspired by the writings of David Pearce, largely exemplified in his latest album — aptly named "Utility." Sam's artistic excellence, motivated by blissful visions of the future, an...
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Over the past several centuries, the human condition has been profoundly changed by the agricultural and industrial revolutions. With the creation and continued development of AI, we stand in the midst of an ongoing intelligence revolution that may prove far more transformative than the previous two. How did we get here, and what were the intellectual foundations necessary for the creation of AI? What benefits might we realize from...
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Human civilization increasingly has the potential both to improve the lives of everyone and to completely destroy everything. The proliferation of emerging technologies calls our attention to this never-before-seen power — and the need to cultivate the wisdom with which to steer it towards beneficial outcomes. If we're serious both as individuals and as a species about improving the world, it's crucial that we converge arou...
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Progress in synthetic biology and genetic engineering promise to bring advancements in human health sciences by curing disease, augmenting human capabilities, and even reversing aging. At the same time, such technology could be used to unleash novel diseases and biological agents which could pose global catastrophic and existential risks to life on Earth. George Church, a titan of synthetic biology, joins us on this episode of the ...
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Essential to our assessment of risk and ability to plan for the future is our understanding of the probability of certain events occurring. If we can estimate the likelihood of risks, then we can evaluate their relative importance and apply our risk mitigation resources effectively. Predicting the future is, obviously, far from easy — and yet a community of "superforecasters" are attempting to do just that. Not only are the...
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Just a year ago we released a two part episode titled An Overview of Technical AI Alignment with Rohin Shah. That conversation provided details on the views of central AI alignment research organizations and many of the ongoing research efforts for designing safe and aligned systems. Much has happened in the past twelve months, so we've invited Rohin — along with fellow researcher Buck Shlegeris — back for a follow-up conversat...
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The global spread of COVID-19 has put tremendous stress on humanity’s social, political, and economic systems. The breakdowns triggered by this sudden stress indicate areas where national and global systems are fragile, and where preventative and preparedness measures may be insufficient. The COVID-19 pandemic thus serves as an opportunity for reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of human civilization and what we can do to he...
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Toby Ord’s “The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity" has emerged as a new cornerstone text in the field of existential risk. The book presents the foundations and recent developments of this budding field from an accessible vantage point, providing an overview suitable for newcomers. For those already familiar with existential risk, Toby brings new historical and academic context to the problem, along with ce...
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Lethal autonomous weapons represent the novel miniaturization and integration of modern AI and robotics technologies for military use. This emerging technology thus represents a potentially critical inflection point in the development of AI governance. Whether we allow AI to make the decision to take human life and where we draw lines around the acceptable and unacceptable uses of this technology will set precedents and grounds for...
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As with the agricultural and industrial revolutions before it, the intelligence revolution currently underway will unlock new degrees and kinds of abundance. Powerful forms of AI will likely generate never-before-seen levels of wealth, raising critical questions about its beneficiaries. Will this newfound wealth be used to provide for the common good, or will it become increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few who wield AI ...
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From Max Tegmark's Life 3.0 to Stuart Russell's Human Compatible and Nick Bostrom's Superintelligence, much has been written and said about the long-term risks of powerful AI systems. When considering concrete actions one can take to help mitigate these risks, governance and policy related solutions become an attractive area of consideration. But just what can anyone do in the present day policy sphere to help ensure th...
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Our perceptions of reality are based on the physics of interactions ranging from millimeters to miles in scale. But when it comes to the very small and the very massive, our intuitions often fail us. Given the extent to which modern physics challenges our understanding of the world around us, how wrong could we be about the fundamental nature of reality? And given our failure to anticipate the counterintuitive nature of the univers...
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In the 1984 book Reasons and Persons, philosopher Derek Parfit asks the reader to consider the following scenario: You step into a teleportation machine that scans your complete atomic structure, annihilates you, and then relays that atomic information to Mars at the speed of light. There, a similar machine recreates your exact atomic structure and composition using locally available resources. Have you just traveled, Parfit asks, ...
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Neither Yuval Noah Harari nor Max Tegmark need much in the way of introduction. Both are avant-garde thinkers at the forefront of 21st century discourse around science, technology, society and humanity’s future. This conversation represents a rare opportunity for two intellectual leaders to apply their combined expertise — in physics, artificial intelligence, history, philosophy and anthropology — to some of the most profound issue...
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As 2019 is coming to an end and the opportunities of 2020 begin to emerge, it's a great time to reflect on the past year and our reasons for hope in the year to come. We spend much of our time on this podcast discussing risks that will possibly lead to the extinction or the permanent and drastic curtailing of the potential of Earth-originating intelligent life. While this is important and useful, much has been done at FLI and i...
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Jan Leike is a senior research scientist who leads the agent alignment team at DeepMind. His is one of three teams within their technical AGI group; each team focuses on different aspects of ensuring advanced AI systems are aligned and beneficial. Jan's journey in the field of AI has taken him from a PhD on a theoretical reinforcement learning agent called AIXI to empirical AI safety research focused on recursive reward modelin...
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We could all be more altruistic and effective in our service of others, but what exactly is it that's stopping us? What are the biases and cognitive failures that prevent us from properly acting in service of existential risks, statistically large numbers of people, and long-term future considerations? How can we become more effective altruists? Stefan Schubert, a researcher at University of Oxford's Social Behaviour and Et...
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In this brief epilogue, Ariel reflects on what she's learned during the making of Not Cool, and the actions she'll be taking going forward.
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